Parables, sometimes called earthly stories with heavenly meanings, are used to impart spiritual truth and although scattered throughout the Bible, the ones Jesus used are the most recognised (eg Mt 7:24-27, 13:3-9). Parables are illustrations using what is familiar and known to teach about what is unfamiliar and unknown. They are both an effective and memorable vehicle for the conveyance of divine truths. Our Lord’s parables contain great volumes of truth in very few words, rich in imagery and not easily forgotten. They often started with “To what may it be compared...It is like...” (Lk 13:18,20). To those who were honestly looking for the truth it became clear (especially when explained) while those who were too lazy or stubborn to acknowledge Jesus didn’t grasp the true meaning but only heard a story (Mt 13:10-17).  He made a clear distinction between those who had been given “ears to hear” and those who persisted in unbelief — ever hearing, but never actually perceiving and “always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth” (2 Tim 3:7). We should not read too much into the parables, expecting each detail to relate to a particular truth.  As a rule, a parable has only one major point or meaning.

In Mathew, Mark and Luke there are recorded over 30 individual parables, while none are mentioned in John. 

See also: illustrations, teaching.